Wild Card weekend is in the books and with it brings the end to four team’s quest for the Lombardi trophy.
The Chiefs failed to contain Marcus Mariota, who all but won this game by himself (there was a healthy dose of Derrick Henry) while the Rams’ magical season came to a crushing end against the Falcons. Meanwhile, while #BillsMafia broke through tables, the Bills offense couldn’t break through the Jaguars defense and finally, Cam Newton and the Panthers couldn’t pull off the upset comeback against the Saints.
Honestly, I’m not sure how the Chiefs managed to lose that game. Sorry, I totally know how the Chiefs managed to lose that game, I just can’t believe they ultimately lost it. The Travis Kelce injury certainly didn’t help matters, but giving Kareem Hunt only 11 carries and 14 total touches is just mind-blowing to me. The Chiefs were up at half 21-3. That’s your queue as a coach to get the run game ready to go and get your PRO BOWL running back and the LEAGUE’S RUSHING LEADER ready to run this game out. Even after the Titans scored to start the second half, the Chiefs were up 21-10 and could easily just run the game out. Yet over the next too possessions, they only gave the ball only twice to Hunt. WYD Andy Reid?
Anyways, I’m not here to try and dissect the Chiefs loss or Reid’s coaching decisions. I’ll leave that for someone who has much more patience than I.
Since the offseason has now started for these four teams, I thought I’d take a look at each team and pick the one thing I think they need to address this offseason in order to make it back into the playoffs next year. Also, since this is a fantasy site, I’ll throw in a free agent I’d like to see go there to help boost someone’s fantasy value (likely the free agent’s).
Let’s start with those aforementioned Chiefs...
Kansas City Chiefs
One thing to fix: Pass rush
The Chiefs finished the season tied for 24th in total sacks (31) and 26th in adjusted sack rate (per Football Outsiders). Justin Houston and Chris Jones accounted for 16 of those sacks (9.5 and 6.5 respectively) so outside of them, no one was able to consistently get to or contain the quarterback. Their lack of pass rush showed up big Saturday as Mariota was able to run all over the Chiefs, picking up four first downs with his legs. With Tamba Hali getting older, the Chiefs need to find themselves another outside rusher to pair with Houston.
Player I want to
go leave here for fantasy purposes: QB Alex Smith
Ok so already breaking my own format but it’s for a good reason. This was almost certainly Smith’s last game as the Chiefs quarterback as he’s about to have a cap hit of $20 million in 2018, and KC would save about $17 million if it chose to trade him. With Pat Mahomes sitting in the wings, that move seems like a no brainer. For fantasy purposes, I want the Chiefs to send Smith to Arizona. The Cardinals still have offensive weapons to play with—Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t age and let’s not forget that David Johnson is still on that team and really really good at football—but have nothing waiting at the quarterback position with Carson Palmer retiring.
Also, for those who want to see Smith traded to the Broncos, on paper yea I’d love that but there is zero way the Chiefs are sending an above average starting quarterback to a indivision rival. Just not happening.
Los Angeles Rams
One thing to fix: Pharoh Cooper’s fumblitis
There were plenty of things that played into the Rams’ demise Saturday night but nothing had as big an impact on the game than Cooper’s two fumbles setting up the Falcons with short fields and easy points. Atlanta was able to score 10 points directly off of Cooper’s miscues. It sucks because Cooper had just been named a member of the NFL’s All-Pro team as a kick and punt returner and had been an explosive member of the Rams’ second ranked special teams unit.
There are other things the Rams have to fix heading into this season and Cooper wasn’t the lone reason the Rams lost this game (for instance the Rams could use some help in the secondary). However, this is a good, talented but young Rams team and I think a lot of their issues come from that age. LA had the second youngest roster this year while the Falcons were 24th and just coming off a deep playoff run last year. The older, wiser and better team won Saturday but I think the Rams are really only experience away from making noise in the postseason. So maybe that’s what they need to fix? More experience? I don’t know.
Those fumbles early though really fudged their chances.
Player I want to go here for fantasy purposes: TE Tyler Eifert
It’s very possible Eifert doesn’t touch free agency but it’s also possible given his injury history and Tyler Kroft’s emergence at the tight end position, the Bengals are ok letting Eifert go. If so, I’d love to see him in LA as I think a game changing tight end across the middle is something this offense is lacking. McVay started with Washington as their tight ends coach so certainly knows how to get the most out of the position. Jordan Reed’s best season came under McVay in Washington. I think Eifert is a buy low, high upside guy that McVay could return to football (and fantasy) glory.
One thing to fix: Playmakers
If you would have told me the Bills and the Jaguars would play in the Wild Card round, this is exactly how I would’ve envisioned the game going. Sweet Brady that was an ugly affair. However ugly it was, it certainly cemented two things we all knew heading into the game: 1) the Jaguars’ secondary is scary good and 2) the Bills’ offense needs playmakers. It’s never good when a banged up LeSean McCoy is both your leading rusher and leading receiver by a wide margin. Outside of him, the Bills really have nothing in terms of game changers. Jury is still out on Kelvin Benjamin but certainly he didn’t really help this season as he spent much of it dealing with a knee injury.
Also, is this the last we’ll see of Tyrod Taylor at quarterback?
Player I want to go here for fantasy purposes: WR Jarvis Landry
First off, I’ve always been a Tyrod guy so I’m not replacing him though many think this would be a nice spot for Alex Smith. Sure. It could be. I like Tyrod so I’m getting him weapons.
Think whatever you want about Landry in the real football world, but in fantasy, the dude is money (especially in PPR). Pairing him with McCoy and Benjamin is a nice foundation to an offense and at least gives Taylor (or whomever is at quarterback) another legit weapon to get the ball to. Plus it’ll be the Bills chance to pull of a Patriot move and sign a player indivision.
One thing to fix: Wide receivers x 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
When the Panthers can’t get their run game going, their offense is hard to watch. The passing game consists of 100 year old Greg Olsen and running back—though let’s be honest, he’s a wide receiver who plays out of the backfield—Christian McCaffrey. Those guys are both amazing and can get the job done but watching Sunday’s game remind us all a) the Panthers really miss Ted Ginn and b) Devin Funchess can’t do it alone.
Player I want to go here for fantasy purposes: WR Taylor Gabriel
Speaking of missing Ted Ginn and his speed, Taylor Gabriel is a free agent this year. Maybe the Panthers would be better off with a receiver like Paul Richardson, but I want to give them what they’ve been claiming they want: speed. Now they will have Curtis Samuel returning who was a non-factor his rookie year but we know Gabriel can thrive in an offense and can make plays for you down the field.